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      I’ll bet almost everyone who has ever picked up a paddle to propel a kayak or even a canoe can relate to the feeling that regardless of what else we do in life, or the outdoors….. first we fish!   

     One of my friends always says, “You’re the busiest retired person I ever heard of”. After almost 41 years with the same company I did in fact retire and almost immediately there was a flood of requests to do many other things. Some new, some things that I had already been enjoying and participating in for years. For many seasons I’ve enjoyed being part of the media as an outdoor writer, one of my more interesting artifacts is a correspondence from BASSMASTER magazine over 35 years ago where I sold my first article to them followed by many more. My work has appeared on the pages of many magazines in the three and half decades that I’ve been part of the outdoor writing community. But first I’m a fisherman. 

   Another media outlet that I have enjoyed is radio. For twenty five plus years I’ve been associated with 650 WSM on the AM side of the radio dial. WSM is the legendary Grand Old Opry station that has been around for over eighty years. My gig with these folks started with meeting a DJ at a personal appearance at an outdoor show, and after watching my interaction with the crowd she suggested I might do well on radio. We scheduled a tour of the station and discussed a format that still today is popular with the outdoor listeners reached by the 50,000 Watt station. My spots have carried many different names, Fish Tales and Tips, Inside the Outdoors and Wild Side radio, radio is a wonderful experience and gives me a great outlet to promote sponsors and other related activities plus keep out listeners informed as to current seasons, regulations and my own experiences in the woods and on the water. But first I’m a fisherman. 

    Doing TV is a most interesting form of media. I’ve done it live, done commercials, taped spots, series, did a video, a DVD and segments with the latest venture being under the umbrella of TWRA TV and the Extreme Outdoors TV. Much of what I’m doing on this “on demand” channel is sort of a revival of the popular REEL TIPS I did for years on Tennessee’s Wild Side. Early exploits on TNN, some ESPN, co-hosting on many occasions with Bill Hall on LAND and LAKES and a fifteen year run on Wild Side carries with it several stories about the behind the scenes activities related to being in front of the camera. Success on TV is exhilarating, fooling, hooking, playing and landing BIG bass on camera is a rush like none other. But first I’m a fisherman.  

     Honestly when it is nice enough to be outside I like to be fishing. Admittedly the rise of a covey of quail, the appearance of a whitetail deer or the sight of a turkey fanning out, makes it hard for me to resist grabbing a bow, shotgun or rifle and beating the sunrise to the woods. Having taken my share of game, it does become more about watching the woods wake up, the sounds that accompany the morning and the view of the fall anywhere outdoors that keeps me coming back for the occasional hunt. But first I’m a fisherman. 

   For three decades it’s been my pleasure to be associated with the NMMA (National Marine Manufacturers Association). I again have been doing seminars, personal appearances on behalf of sponsors and media “work” for these folks all over the country. Never nervous about being on stage or being interviewed it has opened many other doors for me and given me some unique opportunities. Seminars generally last for about 40 minutes with a few minutes left for questions from the crowd. The time seems to fly by. I’ve met some interesting and unusual people doing this work. Part of the fun is the crossover of meeting people who listen to the radio spots or have seen me on TV or read my articles. Again the behind the scenes preparation is a story in itself. Always armed with pictures, props and give away products I found laying out a tackle box as an outline is helpful. Engaging the audience makes for a fun time for all in attendance including me. Eating every meal out and sleeping in a strange bed at the end of the day is the downside but meeting new people as well as interaction with old friends makes it all worthwhile. But first I’m a fisherman. 

   For more years than I care to admit I decided to jump into the martial arts.  I joined a summer program a long, long time ago peaked my interest and had me taking classes twice weekly. White, belt, gold belt, orange belt and on and on. The discipline I choose is called Wado Ryu, a defensive style of karate based of a similar style and some Ju Jitsu. Running forms, also known as kata, sparring or kumite and learning self-defense while working on conditioning all had its appeal. Eventually I was asked to assist in class and later to be an instructor which I continue to do as well as take classes in pursuit of my fourth degree black belt. Participating in tournaments and winning the Eastern United States Ju Kumite fighting title three years in a row and also running kata gave me a sense of accomplishment. But first I’m a fisherman. 

   I feel the most alive when I paddle my kayak or walk the bank or wade chucking flies on a five weight fly rod, pitching jigs or cranking spinnerbaits past weeds or wood. Watching the sun rise or set over the water is hard to beat. Realizing you’re holding your breath as a buzzbait jumps a log in anticipation of a thunderous strike, or watching a sponge spider gently land in the middle of a bluegill bed, or sensing then seeing the line swim off after the “tap-tap” on a plastic worm all says to me, no matter what else, first I’m a fisherman.